Thursday, July 17, 2014

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Boucher/Bassett-Lowke Connection

Boucher was not strictly a toy company. They produced models: industrial models for exhibition; yacht models for racing; live steam boilers, engines and fittings for model steamships; and the old Voltamp line of trains which at the time were the most realistic toy trains in the country. That is why Boucher's slogan was "Toys that are more than just Toys". One imagines that H.E.Boucher would have preferred to skip the "Toy" part of the slogan altogether. So when in 1923 Boucher announced a 1 gauge live steam locomotive, it should not have come as any surprise. A picture of the catalog illustration is in the following Tinplate Times article, and a catalog picture with detailed description of the locomotive can be found in Graham Claytor's TCA Quarterly article on operating live steam locomotives in the winter edition, 1981, Vol 27, no 1. >

This locomotive was brought out around the same time as Boucher bought out Voltamp, and Boucher offered ex-Voltamp passenger and freight cars to go with it, with trucks altered for 1 gauge. As it turns out, this locomotive was in fact made by Bassett-Lowke. Whether Boucher commissioned B-L, or B-L made it for themselves and Boucher took the opportunity to market them in the US is unclear. What is clear is that at $275 in 1923 money, not many were sold. B-L also listed this model in their catalog, but with a few variations. The article by Claytor shows both the Boucher and B-L locomotives. The B-L has a different cab window design, steam cylinders and a longer tender than the Boucher version. However, in the 1927 B-L catalog, the locomotive is shown with the same cab windows and cylinders as the Boucher version:
Naturally, I wanted one. The problem of course is scarcity. I have only ever seen 3 Boucher versions, and 2 of them may have been the same one under difference circumstances. I have never seen the Bassett-Lowke version in person, and only know of Claytor's (where is it now?). So imagine my excitement when i stumbled into one:
This is most likely a Bassett-Lowke given the larger tender. I would have preferred a Boucher, but this will have to do (its missing the trailing truck, a bogus Marklin repro is standing in for now). A real Boucher looks like this (pic from Liveauctioneers, Bertoia Auctioneers, used without permission but dear God, i sent them enough money in the past year so they should be cool about it)

As with most things that i own, this one is a bit strange with some unexplainable differences to other known examples. First and formost, it is coal fired, not spirit fired. The tender carries only water with a connection to an annoyingly intrusive water injection line into the boiler on the left hand side. The lubricator has been moved from inside the smokebox to a tank on the pilot deck. Bassett-Lowke describes it as having two trial cocks (to check for low and high water in the boiler), but these have been replaced by a proper sight glass. Some of these modifications are extremely professional and suggest B-L did it, and some are a bit sloppy suggesting aftermarket by a hobbyist.

sadly, as seems more often the case than not lately, the person who shipped it to me was very careless with the packing (folded newspaper for cushioning!), and its own weight managed to nearly destroy the cab in transit. One third of the paint was lost on the roof and the front was mangled. I had a friend straighten it, i repainted the front and chemically darkened the roof to blend in, but there is no escaping the fact that i had bought an excellent example and ended up with one that was...not. So let this be a cautionary tale: get into the habit of telling anyone you deal with how to pack your trains: i.e peanuts, and plenty of them.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Toy Trains at Disneyland....

I was hanging out in Anaheim, CA last week and I spent a few minutes (or hours/days) at Disneyland.  Disney California Adventure has some really cool train stuff, check out the windows in the stores with both prewar O Gauge and Standard Gauge.  They also have a mock up "Red Car" in Disney Adventure as well that's really nice. 

If you are a train nut, this is fun time.  Get a park hopper as Toontown also has a "Jolly Trolley" that really is very similar to the Fontaine Fox Toonerville Trolley.  It's kind of nice to see an actual real prototype of the Toonerville (yes, I know there are others).  Check out the pics....  I know, not a huge secret that Walt Disney, Ward Kimball, and the Disney team were/are train buffs.  It's just nice to see it reflected in a present day theme park.  Also, if you get a chance, check out the Radiator Springs at Disney California Adventure.  If you like toy trains and cars, you won't be disappointed.